Voice of an Angel: PBSC alumnus tells his story
By: Dean Glorioso
Luis Angel Arroyo needed his own angel, someone in his corner who believed in him. He found more than one at Palm Beach State College and truly transformed his life. Beyond thankful, Arroyo has been empowering young people since graduating from PBSC in 2019 with his Associate in Science degree and in 2022 with his Bachelor of Science degree, both in Human Services. Now pursuing a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University, he operates Angels Boxing Therapy, providing guidance through a unique counseling model. Through wide smiles and heartfelt tears, he told us his story, in his words and in his voice—the voice of angel.
“My life journey has been nothing but a fight. Students like me need a voice and a place to talk about their struggles. Who am I? I never finished high school but earned a GED in prison at the age of 28. At the time I was at a sixth-grade reading level. At Palm Beach State, I became a first-generation college student at the age of 51.
“Having experienced childhood trauma and being diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and substance abuse disorder, I turned to a life of drug abuse, helping me not to feel pain or accept who I was. In 2016 I was released from county jail and found myself living at a homeless shelter. Knowing I needed and wanted to change, I prayed.
“I would take a bus to Palm Beach State’s Boca campus. For one year I sat and waited, still homeless. When I would see Professor Grace (Gracelyn Stuart), I shared with her my goal of entering school but didn’t have the money to pay for the enrollment fee. To my surprise, she asked how much it was and wrote me a check for the admissions application. I am forever grateful to her.
“This was the start of an amazing story. I was still dealing with mental health struggles, yet I was fortunate to have Palm Beach State staff and professors listening through my tears of both hope and pain.
“There was the Boca Campus Student Learning Center Dream Team, as I call them, of Marc (Fedderman) and Kim (Copeland), the amazing staff in the financial aid office, including Nina (Cruz) and James (Hough), and my wonderful CSA advisor Topeka (Zigler; now Testing Center Manager) and all the staff. And Dr. Duff (Suzanne Duff, Ph.D., Human Services department chair) made an incredible impact on my academic development.
“In December 2019, I graduated from Palm Beach State’s Human Services program, concentrating in Addiction Studies. Finishing my bachelor’s degree in Human Services (in 2022), I entered the master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Today, my dream has come true through my boxing gym, making a difference for young lives and those who may be struggling as I did.
“Angels Boxing Therapy in Oakland Park, Florida, trains children and teenagers to deal with their struggles in life by using boxing as a therapeutic intervention and coping strategy, tutoring to boast education and holding group therapy for individuals to deal with stress and mental health challenges.
“My approach uses boxing and evidence-based therapeutic interventions as strategic approaches to help heal adverse childhood experiences, traumatic past events and mental health and substance abuse disorders.
“Overall, my years and experiences have shown me that life’s not about getting hit; it’s about how you get hit, get up and keep moving. Without my education, I don’t know what my mental health and entire life would be like now. Hopefully, my story inspires others.”
In recognition of Palm Beach State College’s 90th anniversary, the weekly Alumni Spotlight Series showcases the College’s role in preparing generations of graduates to achieve success in myriad careers and give back to their local communities.